Don’t forget the hinterland

Architects are in some ways a pretty uniform bunch. They have all gone through the same educational process, and most of them didn’t do anything else first (this is an interesting contrast with landscape architects, many of whom only embrace the profession at postgraduate level).

Of course this doesn’t make them one-dimensional but, since architecture tends to be an all-consuming profession, one can have a pretty good idea of how most of them have spent the larger part of their lives. Of course many have families, and there are a lot of fanatical cyclists and numerous painters. But in many cases that is it.

And so, without thinking too hard, they may conclude that the people who write about architecture and related subjects have come on a similarly straight path and live on similar tramlines. In my case this is not entirely untrue – although there is my perhaps unexpected degree in metallurgy and materials science. But not for all.

I was reminded of this when reading a lovely obituary of my friend Judith Cruickshank, who died earlier this autumn.

judith cruickshank

We worked together a LONG time ago at Construction News and stayed in touch ever since. She was great at her job (plant editor) and she later went on to edit technical titles such as Ground Engineering. But she was great at other things too, in particular at understanding and writing about ballet. Her husband was for decades the ballet critic of The Times, and I loved the irony of the man concentrating on dancers while his wife’s primary topic was big muddy machinery.

But although we talked about past experiences a lot, I didn’t know until I read this (I don’t think it was mentioned at the funeral) that she had trained and worked as an actress.

Journalists are trained to ask questions rather than to talk about themselves (which can make us seem a little like interrogators in social situations – it is an easy fallback). But if you do ask, you may find some unexpected back story. Although few are as rich as Judith’s.

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